The following is a guest post from our friend, Sean Kim, USAFA Class of 2025 Appointee. Sean also won a Navy ROTC-Marine Corps Option and an Army ROTC scholarship. He did extremely well on his CFA and ROTC physical fitness tests and we asked him to give us his equipment recommendations to get ready for CFA. As a side note, we make a small commission for any purchases through affiliate links.
Take it away Sean….
Doing well on the Service Academy CFA is not impossible by any means. You can easily beat the average and even max out on some events if you are well prepared. But you DO need to put in a lot of time and effort to achieve that. Remember, military fitness is all about being well-rounded. The Academies don’t want someone that can bench 400 lbs but can’t run a mile and vice versa.
CFA consists of six events:
- Basketball throw
- A 40-yard shuttle run
- A 1-mile run
If you’re curious about your performance you can access Gain Service Academy Consulting’s CFA calculator here.
Below are the items that will help you better prepare for each of the CFA events
Item #1: Small-sized basketball
– Unless you’re a basketball player, you will realize throwing a standard-sized basketball may be quite tough. Get used to it by using a smaller basketball until you are comfortable with the larger ball.
Pros: Better grip and easier to practice
Cons: May be a hard transition to a standard-sized basketball
You can purchase a smaller size 5 basketball here.
Item #2: Baseball or a softball
– If you have smaller hands, it may not be easy for you to practice using a basketball initially. In that case, a baseball or a softball can be used initially to get your arm in shape.
– Start with baseballs. Once you think your arm is in shape, try a softball. Ultimately, you will get to the level where you will be comfortable with standard size 7 basketball.
Pros: Can get your arm in shape so that you can get the technique side of throwing mastered before moving on to basketball.
Cons: May take a lot longer since you need to gradually progress from small to large.
You can purchase a baseball here or a softball here.
– Though the best way to improve pull-ups is to simply do more pull-ups, if you can’t even do a single pull-up or can barely knock out a couple of reps before failure, these items will help significantly.
Item #1: Pull up assist band
– Just like the picture above, the band will assist you during your reps so you can train your back muscles until you can perform a lot of reps with band-assist then move on to bodyweight pull-ups with no band.
Pros: Easier to get started and gradually work the way up and cheap price for a variety of bands with different resistance
Cons: Maybe hard to transition to pull-ups with no assistance.
You can purchase pull-up assistance bands here.
Item #2: Doorway Pull up bar
– It’s not realistic to buy a whole squat rack for most people. If you need an accessible bar that you can perform reps, definitely consider acquiring this sweet item: doorway pull-up bar. You will only need a doorway which everyone has.
– Just like the picture above, you can place in between doorways and simply perform your reps.
Pros: You can work on your reps whenever you want to without having to go to a local park or gym.
Cons: Cheaper models tend to fall so there is a risk of injury.
You can purchase a doorway pull-up bar here.
Perform reps between your tasks; for example knock out some reps before you go use the bathroom, between homework and meals, right after or before you go to bed, etc.
40-yard Shuttle run
– This is one of the simpler ones. Since this event tests your explosiveness and speed, you will simply need to practice those areas.
Item #1: Non-slip athletic shoes with spikes
– It depends on whether you are taking the CFA indoors or outdoors, but the point is to have a shoe that has enough friction so that you won’t slip when you are performing the shuttle run where you have to change directions multiple times.
Pros: Specifically built for explosive movements such as sprints
Cons: The ones with spikes will not be compatible indoors and could be pricey
You can purchase spike shoes here.
Item #2: Plyo Jump Box
– As much as sprints deal with explosiveness, it is imperative that you build your explosiveness before you get out and start sprinting.
– Just like the picture above, you leap up to the box. It will build the foundation of your explosive strength.
Pros: Great way to build fast-twitch muscle and system that is necessary for sprints
Cons: Depends on the model but could cost a lot
You can purchase a set of jump boxes here.
– Don’t have someone to hold your feet and legs while you perform your reps for sit-ups? This will help you with that.
Item #1: Sit-up bench
– You probably would have seen these at the gym or a local park. It is easy to use and you don’t need anyone to practice sit-ups since you will simply tuck your legs in and perform your reps.
Pro: You won’t need anyone else to spot you
Con: High cost
You can purchase a sit-up/weight bench here.
– Alongside pull-ups, this is an exercise where your reps will exponentially increase if you put in the time and effort.
Item #1: Push up bar
– Just like above, you can use push-up bars to perform reps. Keep in mind, however, academies will not allow you to use push-up bars during the actual CFA.
– Avoid wrist pain since your wrist will stay neutral,
– A bit of incline due to the bar’s height will make reps easier for beginners
– Larger range of motion is possible due to the bar’s height which will better prepare you
Con: Push-ups on your hand will feel a lot different from using a bar. In fact, you will need to practice reps without a bar just to get the right feel.
You can purchase push-up handles here.
Item #2: Bench Press set
– It might just be smart to start doing bench presses before you move on to push-ups. Not only does it use the same muscle but also you can adjust the weight according to your level.
Pros: Adjustable weight, works the same muscle as push-ups
Cons: High price, a bit of a different feel from push-ups, better for strength than endurance
You can purchase a bench press set here.
Item #3: Slingshot resistance band
– This item is more for proper form than performance. Push-ups can lead to injury if it is done in an incorrect form such as elbows flaring out.
– Like the picture above, this band will help you keep your elbows tucked in while you perform your reps.
Pros: Better for proper form, prevent injuries
Cons: Can’t use during CFA, high price for a single band
You can purchase a slingshot resistance band here.
– A lot of candidates struggle with this event. Unless you are a runner, running 1 mile as fast as possible after completing 5 previous events is not an easy task. Even seasoned runners are taxed by this event
. There isn’t much you can do besides doing interval training, long runs, and lifts that will prevent injuries. But you will definitely need a nice pair of running shoes designated only for running to perform well.
Item #1: Good quality pair of running shoes (Nike Pegasus Series)
Pros: Can last over 450 miles, light, not as cushy so will help train your feet muscles
Cons: Less cushion means your feet will hurt more initially (though you get used to it eventually)
You can purchase Nike running shoes here.
Item #2: GPS watch
– It is always helpful to have a device that will tell you your pace and the elapsed distance. You won’t need to count how many laps you have run and also can go on a long run without having to open Google maps to figure out how far you ran.
Pros: Works well and makes the training easier through exact pace and distance calculation.
Cons: May be a bit pricey and not necessary if you are not serious about running.
There are a lot of different options on the market but we like something without all the bells and whistles that does its job well – such as the Garmin Forerunner 235. You can purchase it here.
Having the right equipment to properly train for the CFA is very important. The recommendations above helped me greatly and can assist you in doing your best. But keep in mind that no item can beat hard work and consistency when it comes to physical fitness.
Good luck to you all with your academy applications and hope to see you at the academy!